Irish Republican News · August 27, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Clintons back strong US role in North talks

Former US president Bill Clinton has promised that Senator John Kerry would be a powerful ally for peace in the North if elected to the White House.

On a visit to Belfast, Mr Clinton said that the Democratic candidate was ready to adopt a more proactive role in the North than George W. Bush.

Stressing his love of visiting Ireland, Mr Clinton described himself as a “cheerleader for peace” in the North.

He was accompanied by Senator Hillary Clinton, who urged those involved in ongoing talks to inspire others around the world by moving the political process forward.

The Clintons held a series of meetings with political leaders in Belfast, including British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy.

Mr Clinton said there appeared to be a willingness on the part of the parties, including Sinn Féin and the DUP, to break the political deadlock following the failure to implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“Mostly you get the feeling that they are willing to work out an accommodation. I know that the people here want to go forward. I also think that they are serious political parties, so they want to exercise authority. You can’t exercise authority if you don’t have a government to exercise it within,” he added.

But the former president said he did not know if the IRA would take an historic step in the coming weeks to wind down all paramilitary and criminal activity.

He said he was encouraged by the reduction of violence.

“The fact we have been without a government for over a year and a half and nothing too bad has happened is because the public wants to go forward and the politicians want to govern,” he said.

Mr Clinton said an administration led by John Kerry would greatly assist the peace process if needed.

“He would far more likely be heavily involved and supportive of the process and bring the American government to bear.

“It is generally true that if he were president he would be more active across a whole range of areas which would build America’s positive relationships.”

However, Mr Clinton was the target of an attack by senior DUP representative Ian Paisley Jr.

Mr Paisley mocked Mr Clinton’s assertion that the Good Friday Agreement was not dead. The North Antrim Assembly member said: “This is a man who is clearly out of touch with political reality.

“A cheerleader of a football team would have more standing now than this self-proclaimed cheerleader for peace.”


Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton told an assembled audience at Magee College in Derry that the US would have a presence at intensive negotiations set to take place next month in southern England.

“American involvement was essential in my view and history will record that and it has remained essential and I am delighted that the United States will be present at the meetings in September,” she said.

“I would urge those who are party to the process to think about the opportunity provided by the meetings in September.

“There are tough issues to be taken and worked out, the democratic institutions of Northern Ireland have to be discussed, the Assembly and Executive stood up.

“But if too much time goes by people will lose hope.

“They will lose faith in their leaders and they will lose faith in the democratic political process.

“Delaying is not only a loss for Northern Ireland, It is a loss for democracy, it is a step backwards,” she added.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams paid tribute to the role Mr Clinton had played in assisting the peace process.

The West Belfast MP said: “President Clinton in his eight years of office played a crucial role in the peace process.

“Hillary Clinton as First Lady and now as a Senator still plays a very informed and important role.

“I think they represent the best of US opinion on these matters.

“President Bush’s administration continues with all of that work.”

Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness discussed recent developments in the peace process with the Clintons.

He said afterwards that the DUP would have to be more realistic in its approach.

In response to DUP claims that a policing and justice minister for the Six Counties could not have previous convictions for paramilitarism, Mr Adams said: “We do not want to be negotiating with the DUP in public on these matters.

“But they have to have realistic objectives. They cannot set the bar at heaven`s height.

“This has to be a job of political work between those of us who want to see a society working in some sort of harmony and particularly those, and the DUP didn`t, who signed the Good Friday Agreement and are obliged to bring about those changes.

“The British government as one of the co-authors of the Agreement has to be bringing about the type of changes that are required.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News